Knowing Disability, Differently

Authored by: Shelley Tremain

The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice

Print publication date:  April  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138828254
eBook ISBN: 9781315212043
Adobe ISBN: 9781351814508

10.4324/9781315212043.ch16

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Abstract

Rare exceptions notwithstanding, the apparatus (dispositif) of disability continues to be left out of feminist and other critical philosophical analyses produced across the sub-disciplines of ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of language, aesthetics, political philosophy, cognitive science, and epistemology (Tremain 2013a). Even feminist epistemologists and other philosophers who use the relatively recent and philosophically and politically important notions of epistemic injustice and epistemological ignorance do not consider how the apparatus of disability conditions their examination of phenomena, that is, do not consider how disability conditions what they examine, how they examine what they examine, nor why they examine what they examine. The failure of feminist and other philosophers to incorporate insights and arguments from philosophy of disability and disability studies into their work on epistemic injustice and epistemological ignorance is starkly evident in the abundance of ableist metaphors – such as “epistemic blindness,” “epistemic deafness,” “meta-blindness,” “gender-blind,” and “silenced” – that they invoke to bolster their claims, an abundance that attests to their lack of familiarity with or disregard for the arguments that feminist and other philosophers and theorists of disability have articulated in opposition to the use of these metaphors (for instance, see, Tremain 2011a, 2011b; Schalk 2013). In other words, discussions of epistemological ignorance themselves seem to (re)produce a form of epistemological ignorance. Indeed, perhaps the time has come to scrutinize the metaphorical role that the concept of ignorance itself plays in feminist and other critical philosophy and epistemology. Is the concept of epistemological ignorance itself a paradoxical and self-contradicting ableist metaphor? Do feminist and other philosophers inadvertently contribute to the harms perpetrated against certain groups of disabled people when they invoke the concept of epistemological ignorance in their work?

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